TAMPA — Jude Adjei-Barimah stood at his locker, surrounded by a three-deep circle of cameras and microphones pointed at his face like bayonets. The Bucs' third defensive back rarely garners that much media attention, but he was, as the Oakland Raiders discovered during Sunday's game, an easy target.
Hey Jude …
What happened on the pass interference penalty in the end zone on fourth down of the Raiders' final drive in regulation?
"Yeah, obviously the referee saw a penalty, so he threw a flag," Adjei-Barimah said of his hold on Raiders receiver Seth Roberts (and yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was a hold) that led to the tying score two plays later.
Did you know a penalty was going to be called?
"I had no idea," he said.
What happened on the final play in overtime?
"We came up short. We didn't make enough plays to win the game," he said of Roberts' 41-yard touchdown, in which Adjei-Barimah and safety Bradley McDougald collided in a Keystone Cops kind of way.
Monday, coach Dirk Koetter explained the 30-24 overtime loss as a game of ebbs and flows.
"Seven-point lead with a minute and 40 something to go. That's not bad," Koetter said. "See that fourth-down pass in the red zone sail out of bounds, feeling good. See the yellow hanky, not so good."
After Sunday's game, like he has done several times this season, Koetter said the offense put its defense in a bad position.
While that might be true, especially when the offense went three and out on the Bucs' final three possessions including two in overtime, the defense has proven it doesn't need any help being put in bad positions.
The Bucs allowed Derek Carr to pass for 513 yards and four touchdowns, a club record and the most ever against Tampa Bay. Think about that for a second. Daryle Lamonica, Jim Plunkett, Kenny Stabler, Rich Gannon — none had passed for as many yards for the Raiders as Carr did Sunday.
Tampa Bay allowed 11 explosive plays (run plays of 10 yards or more and pass plays of 25 yards or more). The Bucs missed 12 tackles.
"We gave up a ton of passing plays," Koetter said. "We gave up over 500 yards. Yeah, is that good? No, that's not. We let them throw one over our head. We had a long (pass interference) penalty that might have been another touchdown had we not gotten the penalty. So those are all things that come up in a game. Our coaches, our coaching staff, our job is to try to put our guys in position to get a win that week against that team. We can say we played terrible. We can say we played okay. We can say we played good. The bottom line is we had a chance to win that game and we didn't."
Koetter is right. Jameis Winston and the offense hung the defense out to dry, especially from late in the third quarter on.
The Bucs defense was gassed, especially the secondary, which couldn't keep up with receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
Cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves each played 93 snaps. Ninety-three! McDougald was in for 92. Safety Chris Conte for 80. For the record, there was never a thought of giving them a blow.
"Your best players play," Koetter said. "I'm not a scientist, I'm a football coach. You play your best players. Would it help them? I don't know. I'm not doing it."
Thursday's game against Atlanta marks the midpoint of the season, yet Mike Smith's defense hasn't really gotten that much better. And folks, it won't until the Bucs have another draft to address some glaring needs, starting with the lack of a pass rush and better safety play. Carr dropped back 59 times and was sacked only twice.
Not even halfway through the season, the Bucs defense has given up 50 explosive plays. Eight receptions have gone for 40 yards or more.
Three days before facing a Falcons team that owns the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL, Koetter was asked Monday if he thought the Bucs defense was improving.
"I can already see you've got your article written, which is fine," Koetter said. "I don't look at it that way. We're week to week. Who's playing this week, who we're playing against? So whether I think that or not, I'm wouldn't say that right now because my job is to get our team to play Thursday night against Atlanta. You can write your article any way you want to write it."
Unfortunately for the Bucs, the story never changes.